The Baby Mysteries

 

The Baby Mysteries Blog Post - Eloise Jan16

Wonderfully Horrible

Our baby daughter, Eloise, turns one on Sunday. The past year has been tiring, wacky, joyous, boring, momentous, difficult and amazing. Being mama to Eloise has been horribly wonderful and wonderfully horrible. Because babies are easy… except when they are not.

This inherent contrariness makes parenting a baby so fantastic and so awful at the same time. This clash makes them seem loveable even when they do something disgusting. This innate conflict is why we find everything stupendously hard the first time round and then try for a second baby a short time later. Babies are a paradox.

 

Baby Mysteries

For instance, a newborn is tiny but she takes up so much space in your life. I mean, how much washing is there? It just never ends. And how much stuff do you take with you just to get out the door?

It is also so strange how unfamiliar a newborn is, but how you cannot remember what your world was like before she arrived. She is exactly how you pictured her, even though you didn’t actually have an image in your head.

These baby mysteries extend further – where does all the time go? How come time seems to have gone so fast even though some days were so looooooonnnng, they seemed to last forever. Being awake at 2am does give that impression.

And when she sleeps badly overnight, how come she does not sleep well during the day too? Surely she would want to nap more? Oh, and the most perplexing thing of all when it comes to sleep – how is an inadvertent two minute car nap the same as a two hour sleep in her actual cot?

How on earth are the car keys or TV remote control so much more desirable than an actual baby toy? How does she discern the difference at such a young age?

Babies are soft yet so strong, cry one minute and laugh the next, and do the most enormous bowel movements yet smell divine. It’s all so baffling.

 

Revoltingly Cute

No matter what babies do, it seems super cute. If older children or adults did these things you would probably find it quite rude or revolting. Eloise has taken to pointing to other people’s food to try and solicit a bite. This is met with people kindly offering a morsel to her. They simply can’t resist. If she starts a game of ‘raspberry’ – putting her tongue between her lips and blowing to make a sound – then not only does she spray everyone within a three feet radius, but they all want to join in. And don’t get me started on bodily functions. I would challenge anyone not to smile when they hear any baby pass gas.

Babies are also super cute with things that are deemed easy. How incredible is it to see a baby in a peaceful slumber? Bonus points if she is in a front pack at a busy park or market.

And if none of that seems cute enough for you, then get your baby to wear adult size clothing like hats, shoes or sunglasses. There is something so innately confusing about large clothes on a tiny baby. It seems right and wrong at the same time.

 

Fun Theory

What is the root cause of this paradox? Why are babies wonderfully horrible and revoltingly cute? I have a fun theory that is likely to be wildly off the mark, but here goes…

Maybe it is because babies are better than us adults but we don’t want to acknowledge it. After all, we take care of them. We are the parents. But babies effortlessly do all the things that we are told makes life special and worthwhile. Things like smiling, being present and having courage come naturally to babies, but are sometimes hard for us.

The other day there was a little spider crawling across the floor near Eloise. It brought home all the things that Eloise is better at than me, including:

  • Marveling at nature and being curious
  • Being in the present moment
  • Being fearless (trying to pick up the spider)
  • Using both hands (to pick it up)
  • Trying new things (she also tried to eat the spider)
  • A single minded focus (nothing was distracting her from getting that spider)

 

A Ton of Smiles

The number one thing that Eloise does better than me – in fact, better than anyone I know – is spreading joy. Did you know that babies smile or laugh around 300 times per day, and I am sure Eloise keeps this average high. She smiles at strangers in the supermarket, shows delight at the slightest interaction and makes others laugh with her charm. She shows off her great big toothy grin freely, unreservedly and without any expectation. What happens, of course, is she elicits an absolute ton of smiles back.

Happy 1st Birthday Eloise. I hope you keep the best of your baby traits as you grow, particularly your cheerful nature. My wish is that you are always the recipient of a ton of smiles.

The Baby Mysteries Blog Post - Party Table First Birthday

 

What I Did Not Believe Until I Became A Parent

 

What I Did Not Believe Blog Post - Sleep Experiement Cartoon

Unpleasant Side Effects

When I found out I was pregnant I was overjoyed. But it does come with some unpleasant side effects. And I am not talking about morning sickness, back pain, heartburn or swollen ankles.

It comes with the side effects of people rubbing your belly (I am not a genie people!). It comes with mothers telling you their traumatic birth stories (do you really think telling me you pushed out your 18 pound baby after 26 zillion hours of labour with no pain relief is helpful in any way??). And the worst side effect of all – the advice, wisdom and facts that you are suddenly bombarded with.

But like every new mum-to-be, even though I heard some of these parenting insights over and over, I refused to believe them. If they were bad I rejected them outright – I didn’t want to hear about ‘poo explosions’ thank you very much. Even if they were great (‘you will love your baby more than anything in the world’), they usually seemed so overwhelming I ignored them. The irrelevant ones were dismissed straight away – why are domes on baby clothes so important anyway? So I skipped around in my rose-coloured pregnancy daze and then Dylan was born – and BAM it hits you – ‘they’ were right all along. So here are parenting truths – the good, the bad and the ugly.

TRUTH 1) You will NOT have spare time

I just couldn’t believe that if you took 8 hours of work away every day how I couldn’t have more spare time. How on earth could one little baby who supposedly sleeps most of the time change that? Well for one thing, breastfeeding alone can take up to 8 hours a day – and that is just the day feeds. It replaces your full time job and that’s before cooking, cleaning, changing nappies and getting baby to sleep. Especially In those first few weeks with a newborn there is sometimes no time for even for a shower.

TRUTH 2) You will NOT sleep as much as you would like

Textbook babies sleep 16 hours per day so I couldn’t understand how I would not get enough sleep.   After all, I am one of those lucky people who happily thrived on five or six hours a night. You are told “sleep when the baby sleeps” but what the books didn’t say was how difficult it was to know whether Dylan would have a 15 minute cat nap or sleep for three hours. In those first few weeks, I got to the stage where if I had two hours of sleep in a row it was an amazing miracle. Sometimes I would be happy if I managed to lie down and close my eyes in a dark room for ten minutes. I am pretty sure I could cure cancer or attain world peace if I ever get six hours of sleep in a row again.

TRUTH 3) Your entire world will change

I was told so often that my world was about to completely change that it became an almost cliché. This is not an instant transformation as soon as baby is born. It is much more slow and insidious. Then you look around a few months down the track and realise that there has been some sort of fundamental shift. The people I hang out with have changed. What I talk about and think about has altered. What used to be fun is not that fun anymore. When Dylan was three months old, I decided to go to a film at the film festival like I had been doing every year for the past ten years. The evening involved scheduling my in-laws to baby-sit, spending the week leading up to it expressing enough milk just in case baby was hungry and spending the time during the film worrying that the baby’s sleep cycle would change due to the disruption to the usual routine. A Saturday morning sleep-in, a lazy Sunday afternoon watching movies or a spontaneous weekend away are all just distant and hazy memories.

TRUTH 4) Your baby really is the most gorgeous in the world

I am an objective and rational woman. I know that every human is unique and we don’t all get the Jessica Alba/ Brad Pitt genes. So I didn’t quite believe that I would instantly decide that my baby is the most gorgeous baby in the world. Without a doubt he is the most handsome, delightful and perfect baby and there is not a single person who could tell me otherwise. I actually look at other parents with their far less good-looking babies and feel a bit sorry for them.

TRUTH 5) Your husband/ partner will step up to the challenge during labour

We were told over and over again that during labour my husband would not only be helpful and loving, but may actually enjoy it. We dismissed these outlandish claims. Mr S hates pain, anything medical and has to have his hand held when he goes for a blood test. But ‘they’ were right again – my husband even cut the cord.

TRUTH 6) Things that used to be disgusting are not a big deal

Babies do lots of wees and poos. I used to leave the room when friends changed nappies.   Now, not only do poop-filled nappies not bother me, I will go as far to say that they can be exciting. I have been known to even get up from a lie down if my husband is changing a nappy and announces that it is a ‘good one’.   We can have an entire conversation at meal times about the colour, consistency and frequency of our son’s number twos, and it is suddenly not gross or weird at all.

But I may as well save my breath – all you mums-to-be will not believe me. Just do me a favour and save this somewhere and then read it again six months after your child is born.

I Didn't Change

 

 

100 Days Old

100 Days Old Blog Post - Image of Eloise

All About Me

Our baby daughter, Eloise, entered our lives just over 100 days ago. Although the focus at home has been baby, baby, baby, I have recently realised that the previous two blog posts were all about me.

I wrote about my pregnancy, my labour, my birth. Cute photo aside, Eloise featured as a minor character in both those stories. It was time to turn the spotlight onto her – to make her a star.

What to Write About?

So I sat down at my keyboard to write an entire blog post about our brand new baby. And just stared at a blank page. What on earth was I going to write about?

New babies do NOTHING. I couldn’t just write about the ‘nothing’. No one wants to read about the ‘nothing’.

Then I realised that I was focusing on the wrong thing. I was targeting the ‘nothing’ part as the problem. That wasn’t the trouble at all. The real issue was that I had the verb wrong. Being a brand new baby is not about ‘doing’, it is about ‘being’. Just the fact that Eloise is here, that she IS should be enough.

We often forget we are ‘human beings’, not ‘human doings’. I think babies are around to give us the occasional reminder.

Its Called the Present Because It’s a Gift

For instance, new babies only know the present moment. There is no past or future for them. They live only in the now. Somewhere along the way, growing up, we lose this ability. Often, we forget that it is important and find ourselves dwelling in the past or racing into the future. Or perhaps we are told how vital being present is, and then try to reclaim this ability by attempting meditation/ taking some deep breaths / stopping to smell the roses.

However, for me, most of my attempts at being present feel forced. I put aside a few minutes to do some meditation.   When I take deep breaths, I have to add a mantra to it (“In – Calm, Out – Peace”). I have never seen a baby do this. They just breathe. Slowly. Properly. I envy their effortless ability to just be.

Always Choose Need over Want

A parenting rule that I try to live by is when in doubt, always choose a need over a want. Dylan wants to play outside when its dinnertime? He NEEDS to eat and WANTS to play. The answer becomes obvious.

With brand new babies, what is really nice is there is almost no conflict in this area. They need to eat. They need to sleep. They need to be warm and dry and comfortable. They need cuddles. That’s about it. You may have to decide between different immediate needs, but it is all needs. Infants are here to show us that it really is the simple things in life that matter the most.

I Hear You Loud and Clear

Babies have a very clear form of communicating to us. Of course, we might not know what they actually need, but they are not shy at letting us know that they have a need for something.

Adults might suggest, hint or query which can leave room for all kinds of misunderstandings or breakdowns in communication. Babies, on the other hand, command your attention. We are told straight up that something is not right and needs to be changed. Being given a command is extremely refreshing.

Babies Know Everything

So my first real blog post dedicated to my daughter Eloise is actually one of extreme gratitude. On the outside, it is obvious what I am thankful for. I now have an amazing, gorgeous little girl.   Dylan now has a sibling. And she completes our little family.

But it is the lessons that are taught to me every day that I am even more appreciative of. Eloise, you live in the present, you know what you need and communicate it to me in an authentic manner. You innately know how to live, how to just be human. I am in awe of this instinctive ability.

One Hundred Years Old

My main hope for you, Eloise, is that you naturally carry these traits past your first 100 days. I hope that they last for the next 100 weeks, 100 months or even 100 years. It is lovely to imagine you at a grand old age, shuffling slowly but deliberately out to your garden simply to smell the roses.

100 Days Old - Eloise in Pink

A Boring Birth Story

A Boring Birth Story Blog Post - Eloise at 9 Minutes Old

Birth Worry

When you watch a woman go into labour in a film or TV programme there is always a catalogue of high drama that goes with it. Their waters break in the middle of an argument. They are unable to get to the hospital on time, or if they do, then their partner is delayed at getting to their bedside. During the birth some exciting thing happens – high blood pressure (the woman), low heart beat (the baby) or an unexpected extra baby or two.

During your own pregnancy you get bombarded with birth horror stories. Family members, friends, work colleagues, the stranger in the supermarket queue. They all want to tell you about the 36 hours of labour, the blood loss, the excruciating pain, the emergency C-section or the unexpected home birth.

Its no wonder that pregnant woman have a ridiculous amount of worry about what their own labour and birth will be like.

 

The Myth of the Exciting Birth

However, a number of mums I had contact with never told me their birth story. They were conspicuous by their absence. Why hadn’t I heard their stories? When I asked these women, most said either something like “Oh, you don’t want to hear my birth story, it was so long ago”, or “Oh, I went to hospital and then the baby came”.

I now realise that the only birth stories that are shared and retold are ones that are horrific, exciting or full of drama. However, there must be millions of labours and births that are straightforward. And isn’t that what we actually want? The boring birth story is completely underrated.

 

Don’t Yawn Too Much

So I have decided to share details of my labour and birth of my daughter, Eloise. I figure that this may help alleviate some worries of a mum-to-be, or at the very least, be so very dull that it helps them feel sleepy and so relaxes them a bit.

At one week past my due date I woke up about 6am when my three-year old, Dylan, came bounding into our bedroom. It was then I noticed some uncomfortableness and cramping feelings. By about 9am, there was definitely some regular activity happening so I decided to have a nice long shower and eat some breakfast as I wasn’t sure if I would manage such basic tasks later. I told my husband to stick around and we arranged for family members to take care of Dylan.

Then I called my sister (who was to be an additional birth support person) and casually informed her that I was indeed finally in labour and she should meet us at the hospital a bit later. At the time, she was painting her fence and decided to come over to our house straight away. I guess hanging out with a woman in labour is more exciting than painting a fence, but only very slightly.

I had decided to call my midwife at lunchtime because by then I would be definitely sure that I was in labour. My midwife actually called me at 10am to discuss the results of the late pregnancy scan I had had the day before. From the scan measurements it was estimated that baby’s birth weight would be about 4.8kg (10 pounds 5 ounces). I had read the report the day before but put it to the back of my mind as the very thought of getting a baby that size out of me filled me with a panicky terror that was not helpful to the task ahead. My midwife said that she would like to see me to talk about bringing the induction forward. I said that wouldn’t be necessary as I was in labour and I would meet her at the hospital later in the day.

 

Hopefully You Are Still Awake

After lunch, things started revving up; contractions were getting more regular and strong. I was still able to have a good chat with my sister between times, but during them I would bounce on the Swiss ball or lean on a wall at our house.

We decided to go to the hospital about 3.30pm so we didn’t get stuck in rush hour traffic. As soon as I got to the hospital, I was checked by the midwife. At 5cm dilated, things were happening. So no car or travel issues and labour was progressing just fine. Dull dull dull.

Between 4pm and 7pm, labour advanced at a glacial pace in the hospital room. I answered my midwife’s questions, made sure the camera was working properly and even listened to some hypno-birthing CDs. I started to use the gas at about 5.30pm. When the midwife checked me just before 7pm I was only 6cm dilated. I must have got a bit too relaxed! We decided to break my waters.

 

A Little Less Boring

I don’t know what you were doing between 7 and 8pm on Friday 1st of May 2015, but it was not as horrible and painful as what was going on with me! In that hour I went from 6cm to 10cm (fully) dilated. It was NOT a pleasant hour of my life, but it was only one hour.

By 8pm it was decided I could start pushing. This was the bit I was dreading, as during Dylan’s birth I had a lot of trouble with it which lead to a lengthy pushing stage of over 2 ½ hours. I did not want to repeat that! I blame the hypno-birthday CDs that promised me I could ‘breathe’ the baby out. Bollocks.

During this time, there were a few comments from me along the lines of “I can’t do this”. My husband stoically letting me crush his hand and my sister being my cheer squad (“Yes you can! Keep going!”) helped enormously. Then my midwife started getting blunt (“Push now or we will have to get the forceps” – which almost sounded appealing, but not really) and the pushing stage took just over an hour. Longer than necessary but not a record attempt like last time.

 

It Gets A Bit More Exciting Now

Just after baby’s head was visible, my midwife pressed a button and yelled “Shoulder!”. Three extra people raced into the room and the bed was flipped back so it was horizontal. I was told not to push and there was some talking and movement and then I was told to push and then my baby girl was out. I said “I can’t hear her” (with everything going on, I think I had my eyes closed). There were some more shuffling and then Eloise was placed on my chest and gave me a sweet baby cry.

I found out afterwards that Eloise’s shoulder had gotten stuck and also the cord was wrapped twice (but loosely) around her neck. She was taken away and rubbed with a towel, as she was all blue.

 

My Wish For You

OK, the last part was not as boring as it could have been, but I don’t want it to alarm mums-to-be. Honestly, everything happened so quickly that the danger was over before I realised there was any. I am grateful to live in a first world country in the 21st century with caring, experienced and professional staff on hand to help out when things get a little less boring.

For pregnant women out there, my wish for you is that you have a mundane birth story. My wish for you is that you don’t want to tell people about your birth as it will not live up to the dramatic standards that many expect. My wish for you is that you can say that your labour really was like watching paint dry.

 

Main Stats

Name: Eloise

Date of Birth: Friday 1st May

Labour started: 6am

Labour established: 12pm

Birth time: 9.08pm

Weight: 4.265 kgs or 9 pound, 6 ounce

Length: 53cm

Head circumference: 36cm

Outcome: A gorgeous, bonny bundle of amazing perfection

A Boring Birth Story Blog Post - Eloise at 9 Days Old